BF Trustees review Rental Ordinance

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Division of Fire Safety Regional Director Landon Wheeler.

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Division of Fire Safety Regional Director Landon Wheeler.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said that Wheeler was working with Bellows Falls on housing-related issues, specifically with the Rental Housing Ordinance. Pickup had asked for the state to review the town’s draft with identified problems and issues to resolve for an amended Village Ordinance.

Trustee Wade Masure asked where the ordinance stood with Wheeler’s office. Wheeler said there was no ordinance nor has their been a municipal agreement for seven years.

Masure asked him how to move forward. Wheeler said they need to see how how codes are enforced and the communications between village employees and his staff. He said, “Obviously, I need to see an ordinance that has the updated statutes.”

Wheeler said he reviewed the ordinance and that specifications prohibit someone from receiving an inspection. He said, “I will never support an MOU that would hinder somebody from receiving my services…that’s a very important distinction for the Trustees.”

Village President Deborah Wright asked why the village had not had an MOU for seven years. Wheeler explained that it was not renewed when the former Fire Chief left.

Wheeler said there were only 12 MOUs in the State of Vermont and Bellows Falls is the only community that had one and no longer does. He said municipal agreements are difficult to maintain because of the training and documentation.

Wheeler said, “The way this ordinance is written, there’s a lot of inspections that would be mandated that would be very hard for a group of people to maintain, never mind a single individual.”

Bellows Falls Fire Chief Shaun McGinnis explained when the former Chief left there were no certified fire inspectors. Masure asked if they could get a sample MOU from one of the other municipalities. Wheeler said it was not a good idea to copy and paste documents. Masure clarified his question, wondering if the village could use one as a general format. Wheeler said they were welcome to get examples.

Trustee Jeff Dunbar asked if this ordinance went beyond fire safety and Wheeler responded, “Absolutely.”

Pickup explained, “The goal is to take Landon’s [corrections] and work on reshaping the ordinance so that it will pass the initial review on the state level.”

Dunbar said obviously there were items of concern, but it wasn’t clear what they were. He said it was important to understand what is wrong with the language. “Right now,” he said, “it highlights concern but doesn’t direct.”

Wheeler said he was willing to offer comments, but was extremely cautious because, “I don’t want to misrepresent the Division of Fire Safety…It’s my job to review.”

Wright agreed the technical language should be provided by the Planning Commission. She reiterated that “our level of difficulty is there are things highlighted…but [that] does not explain what’s wrong with them in order to craft them differently.”

Masure shared his frustration because this had been going on for over a year. He said, “Not all of that’s on the state’s end, certainly on our end…We just want to get this off the ground in the best interest of our citizens.”

Wheeler said he looks for the best available outcome for the people he serves, but will “never be rushed or pressured.” He supported an existing MOU, but suggested the timeline “was aggressive for a single individual…I have 11 staff and this would tax an individual greatly.”

Masure responded, “We just want to make this work for everybody; your department, the fire department, and the [village residents].”

The Village Trustees meetings are on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House. Agendas and zoom link provided at


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